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US Cellular buyer's guide: Pricing, plans, and more

The fourth-largest mobile provider in the US has a range of options, and here's what you need to know.
By
October 14, 2022
US Cellular MVNO carrier stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

US Cellular slots in as the fourth-largest US carrier with five million customers in over 400 markets. Not only that, but it’s giving users plenty of reason to ditch their big three mobile plan. As a network that lies outside of America’s leaders, you may have several questions before you make a move. Keep reading about the best US Cellular plans, and we’ll do our best to put your mind at ease.

See also: The best US Cellular deals currently available

We’ll take a look at all of US Cellular’s plans, both pre-paid and post-paid, as well as important information on which phones you can use. If you’re looking for another way to save, we’ll touch on a major MVNO that uses US Cellular’s network as a part of its service too. Ready to see what happens when you step outside the big three? Let’s get to it.

US Cellular at a glance

US Cellular launched in 1983 as a majority-owned subsidiary of Telephone and Data Systems Inc. The Chicago-based carrier has an A-minus Better Business Bureau rating, though it’s not accredited with the organization. US Cellular has closed 460 complaints in the last three years, with 172 coming in the past 12 months.

The carrier’s 4G LTE coverage extends into all 50 states, and its 5G network is starting to catch up. The fastest speeds were previously reserved for the Midwest, around the carrier’s Chicago headquarters, but now you can find US Cellular spread nationwide. If you want to check your local coverage, you can check the coverage map here.

Post-paid US Cellular plans

US Cellular’s post-paid options are fairly simple — there are just three options, each with distinctive features. You can opt for the easy Basic plan, which covers the fundamentals, or spend more for the Everyday and Even Better plans which offer unlimited service. US Cellular is also promising bill protection right now, which means your current rate is protected until the end of 2023. Check out an overview of all three choices here:

BasicEverydayEven Better
Talk & Text
Basic
Unlimited
Everyday
Unlimited
Even Better
Unlimited
Video Streaming
Basic
480p Standard Definition
Everyday
720p High Definition
Even Better
1080p Full HD
International
Basic
None
Everyday
500MB of data
100 minutes of talk
100 texts
Canada and Mexico
Even Better
1GB of data
200 minutes of talk
200 texts
Canada and Mexico
Payback
Basic
None
Everyday
$5 back if you stay under 3GB
Even Better
$10 back if you stay under 3GB
Hotspot
Basic
None
Everyday
15GB
Even Better
30GB
Priority Data
Basic
None
Everyday
25GB
Even Better
50GB
RedBox Movie Night
Basic
None
Everyday
1 free rental per month, per line
Even Better
2 free rentals per month, per line

Basic Plan

As you’d expect from the name, this is the most straightforward plan you can get. You get unlimited talk, text, and 4G or 5G data as well as standard definition (480p) streaming, and that’s it. There’s no hotspot option, and you won’t get the special RedBox promo that the other plans offer, but US Cellular Basic costs just $55 per month for one line. If you add a second line, each costs $52.50, three lines drop to $38.33, and four lines cost just $30 each with Autopay and paperless billing.

Highlights:

  • Lines cost as little as $30
  • Standard definition streaming included

Best for:

  • Users who want talk, text, and data at a low monthly rate

Everyday 2.0 Plan

This is your best bet for full access to standard features. Nothing is off-limits, even if you don’t get quite as much access as the Even Better plan. Your streaming jumps to 720p HD quality for starters, and you can enjoy 25GB of priority 4G LTE or 5G data. Everyday service averages at $10 more per month than Basic, so one line is $65, two are $62.50 each, three cost $48.33, and four lines are just $40 apiece.

The Everyday plan includes 15GB of hotspot access, and it’s a good option if you plan to spend time in either Canada or Mexico. You’ll be able to access unlimited data as well as unlimited talk and text messages in either of the North American neighbors. 

Highlights:

  • Talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • Priority data and hotspot access
  • Redbox Movie Night rentals

Best for:

  • Users who want full access to the US Cellular perks but don’t need much international usage

Even Better 2.0 Plan

If you want the plan that has it all, this one is your pick because it’s Even Better. That’s the name, and it’s the level of service you get too. Stream your shows in 1080p Full HD, make the most of 30GB of hotspot access, and enjoy 50GB of high-speed LTE data access. But, of course, this plan kicks the price up by $10 per line, so one line is $75, two are $72.50, three are $58.33, and four lines will cost $50 each.

The even better theme continues with unlimited usage in Canada and Mexico with a premium robocall solution to keep spammers at bay. It’s the best plan for movie lovers, thanks to two free RedBox rentals per month, per line.

Highlights:

  • Talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • Two free RedBox rentals per line, per month

Best for:

  • Users who love RedBox rentals and need a bit more international access and can save money with Payback

Post-paid tablet and wearable plans

iPad Air 5th gen in use as a tablet 1
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

You can hook up a tablet or smartwatch with US Cellular at a great rate, but only if you have another line of unlimited service. After that, you can hook your tablet up with unlimited data for just $29 per month. You’ll also get 4K streaming quality with 15GB of hotspot and 25GB of priority connection each month.

To set up your connected tablet plan, head to the button below or log into your account.

Pre-paid US Cellular plans

The US Cellular prepaid options outnumber the post-paid offerings with the addition of a data-free plan. Each plan is aptly named and describes what you’ll get, though the prepaid options offer fewer perks than the postpaid plans. The more lines you add, the more you’ll save as well, with a $10 discount on lines two through five. Here are a few more details for each plan:

Pay As You Go8GBUnlimitedUnlimited Plus
Cost
Pay As You Go
$30
8GB
$40
Unlimited
$55
Unlimited Plus
$65
Talk and Text
Pay As You Go
Unlimited
8GB
Unlimited
Unlimited
Unlimited
Unlimited Plus
Unlimited
Data
Pay As You Go
$0.03 per MB used
8GB
8GB 4G LTE
Unlimited
Unlimited 4G LTE
Unlimited Plus
22GB Priority 4G LTE
Unlimited 4G LTE
Streaming
Pay As You Go
Not Included
8GB
Standard Definition 480p
Unlimited
Standard Definition 480p
Unlimited Plus
Standard Definition 480p
Hotspot
Pay As You Go
Not Included
8GB
Not Included
Unlimited
Not Included
Unlimited Plus
Unlimited at 1.5Mbps
International
Pay As You Go
Not Included
8GB
Not Included
Unlimited
Not Included
Unlimited Plus
Unlimited dialing to Canada and Mexico
RedBox Movie Night
Pay As You Go
Not Included
8GB
Not Included
Unlimited
Not Included
Unlimited Plus
1 rental per month, per line

Unlimited Talk and Text Plan

It may be hard to believe, but not everyone needs unlimited data in 2021. This plan is for those people who don’t need any data at all. You can get unlimited talk and text for a base rate of $30 per month, and you’ll only be charged for the data you use. At a rate of $0.03 for 1MB, it’s worth your while to keep the data to a minimum as it comes out to $30 per GB.

There are no other perks with the Unlimited Talk and Text plan, it’s just a simple option for those who need to call or text, and that’s about it.

Highlights:

  • Talk and text as much as you want
  • Add data at a per MB rate

Best for:

  • Users who only plan to talk and text but might need data here and there

15GB Plan

Your next prepaid option from US Cellular offers 15GB of 4G LTE access for $40 per month. If you plan to use anywhere close to even 1GB of that data, this is a better option than the talk and text plan. It may cost more per month, but your wallet will probably thank you for the flat rate.

This plan still doesn’t offer a hotspot and tops out at 480p streaming, but that’s one of the tradeoffs that come with affordable service.

Highlights:

  • 15GB of 4G LTE data without per MB rates
  • Unlimited talk and text

Best for:

  • Users who plan to use more than 300MB of data but don’t need unlimited access

Unlimited Plan

The US Cellular prepaid Unlimited Plan is similar to the post-paid Basic Plan. It costs $40 per month for a limited time, and you get unlimited talk, text, and data, as well as standard-definition streaming. It’s a plan designed for data users who aren’t too fussy about streaming quality and don’t want to worry about limits.

Once again, the plan doesn’t offer a hotspot connection or a RedBox promo, but it’s contract-free so that you can leave at any time.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Standard Definition (480p) streaming

Best for:

  • Users who want coverage like the Basic post-paid plan without committing to a long-term setup

Unlimited Plus Plan

US Cellular’s Unlimited Plus prepaid plan is as close as you can get to post-paid access, right down to the RedBox promo. You can make the most of 25GB of priority data per month, followed by an unlimited 4G LTE connection. Streaming is still limited to standard definition (480p), but you can rely on up to 20GB of mobile hotspot access.

Unlimited Plus is the only prepaid plan that’s worth your money if you have family or friends in Canada and Mexico. You can dial each as much as you want at no extra cost. If you’d rather stay in and watch a movie, RedBox Movie Night gives you one free rental per line per month.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Hotspot access at 1.5Mbps speeds
  • One RedBox rental per month

Best for:

  • Users who want unlimited access and hotspot perks without post-paid prices

Which plan is right for you?

US Cellular MVNO carrier stock photo 1

If you want to jump into US Cellular with the easiest plan, it has to be the Everyday 2.0 option. It offers great value starting at $65 per month with hotspot, HD streaming, and priority data. The Even Better plan is the best around, but it may be more than you need.

You can head down the prepaid route, but you’ll probably want at least the Unlimited Plan if you do. Data can get expensive on the talk and text plan, and the 5GB plan is pretty bare-bones. Either Unlimited plan axes the data limit, and they both add standard definition streaming. Ultimately, the best plan is whichever one fits your needs.

US Cellular vs the competition

Verizon logo on phone stock photo
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you’re considering making the switch, it might help to put the best plans around to a head-to-head test. We’ve stacked the Even Better plan against the top options from the Big Three — Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. You can compare the options in the table below or check out our Best unlimited data plans in the US list.

Even Better (US Cellular)Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)Unlimited Elite (AT&T)Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Cost
Even Better (US Cellular)
$75 for one line
$72.50 for two lines
$58.33 for three lines
$50 for four lines
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
$85 for one line
$70 for two lines
$47 for three lines
$43 for four lines
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
$85 for one line
$75 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$50 for four lines
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
$90 for one line
$80 for two lines
$65 for three lines
$55 for four lines
Data
Even Better (US Cellular)
50GB of Premium 4G LTE and Unlimited 4G LTE
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
Unlimited 4G LTE
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
100GB of Premium 4G Data
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
75GB of Premium 4G Data and Unlimited 4G LTE
Talk and Text
Even Better (US Cellular)
Unlimited
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
Unlimited
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
Unlimited
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Unlimited
Streaming
Even Better (US Cellular)
1080p Full HD Streaming
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
HD Streaming
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
HD Streaming
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
HD Streaming
Hotspot
Even Better (US Cellular)
Unlimited at 1,5Mbps
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
20GB 4G LTE then unlimited 3G
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
30GB of 4G LTE per line
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
30GB of 4G LTE
International
Even Better (US Cellular)
1GB Data
200 Minutes of talk
200 Texts
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
Texting, 2G data
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
Texting to 120 countries
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Texting to 200 countries
Extra Perks
Even Better (US Cellular)
$10 per month Payback
2 RedBox rentals per month
Magenta Plus (T-Mobile)
Netflix Standard
Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and texting
5G Access
Unlimited Elite (AT&T)
HBO Max
5G Access
Get More Unlimited (Verizon)
Apple Music
Disney Plus
5G Access

Verizon

If you stop at nothing less than the biggest, fastest, most powerful plan Verizon offers, you must pick the 5G Get More plan. With 720p streaming, 75GB of premium 4G data, and 30GB of 4G hotspot, 5G Get More is the powerhouse of the plans.

Get More isn’t just a data beast either; it also adds Apple Music permanently to the mix along with the Disney Plus bundle. Verizon keeps packing in the perks, as you now get Apple Arcade or Google Play Pass for a year. 600GB of cloud storage is back, as is the half-off tablet offer. As with all plans, you can feel free to text to more than 200 countries.

Highlights:

  • Unlimited premium network data and 50GB of 4G hotspot
  • Apple Music and Disney Plus
  • 5G access with capable devices

T-Mobile

The smallest of the Big Three, T-Mobile completed its merger with Sprint in the middle of 2020. Magenta Max is the best post-paid plan you can get, with unlimited talk, text, and data for your money. Plans are all about perks, though, and Magenta Max offers unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi and texting. In addition, you’ll be able to access both the 4G LTE and 5G networks without an extra fee.

As far as streaming options go, Magenta Max comes with HD options, and you can grab a screen of Netflix Standard. Each line has up to 40GB of high-speed hotspot access, although it’ll drop to 3G speeds afterward. You’ll also get a year of Apple TV Plus with either Magenta plan.

Highlights:

  • Netflix Standard included
  • Unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi
  • 5G access and HD streaming

AT&T

Thanks to the Unlimited Premium plan, America’s second-largest carrier, AT&T, keeps pace with just about everything Verizon can do. All three of AT&T’s options include unlimited talk, text, and data, but only Premium and Extra offer heaps of high-speed access. So no matter which way you go, you’ll be able to text more than 120 countries.

If you’re looking for streaming perks to help guide your decision, AT&T might not be for you. Unfortunately, since selling HBO Max, there haven’t been any streaming perks to speak of, and Stadia is shutting down, too. AT&T’s Unlimited Premium includes 40GB of hotspot per line and high-definition streaming.

Highlights:

  • Up to 40GB hotspot per line
  • High Definition streaming with stream saver

Want US Cellular’s service on a budget?

If you’re looking for an alternative way to save money on the US Cellular network, you might be ready to give an MVNO a shot. Although the network is a bit smaller than the big three, one carrier uses US Cellular for part of its service — none other than Google Fi. Of course, if you’re familiar with Google Fi, then you probably also know that it relies on T-Mobile’s network as well, so it’s more of a hybrid option.

What phones can you use?

google pixel 7 pro lock screen in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Carriers have fewer exclusive devices than ever before, which plays heavily into US Cellular’s favor. While its plans aren’t miles more affordable than the rest, its phones are available for pretty much unbeatable prices. As long as you qualify, you can get almost any one of US Cellular’s phones for free right now when you add a plan. That promo now includes the Pixel 7 series and the Samsung Galaxy S22, S22 Plus, or S22 Ultra.

See also: Best US Cellular phones

You can name the phone, and US Cellular will support it and make it affordable. However, you can also bring a phone with you if you’re so inclined. US Cellular is a CDMA carrier, so it’s a bit limited on what you can bring. The most critical factor in bringing a device is band support. Check the table below for the specifics of the US Cellular setup.

FrequencyBandNetwork Supported
Frequency
1900MHz
Band
2
Network Supported
3G
Frequency
1700/2100MHz
Band
1
3
Network Supported
4G LTE
Frequency
850MHz
Band
5
Network Supported
3G
Frequency
700MHz
Band
2
4
5
12
Network Supported
4G LTE

Interested in bringing an unlocked phone to the carrier? Check out our guide to the best Android phones

Frequently asked questions

Unfortunately, no. US Cellular is one of the few remaining carriers based around the CDMA standard. This means that you’ll have a more challenging time bringing an unlocked device to the network.

Most US Cellular phones are unlocked out of the box, though all iPhones are locked for 120 days after purchase. Once this time passes, US Cellular will automatically free your phone. 

Although it’s been long promised by US Cellular, the carrier has yet to implement Wi-Fi calling support. 

An MVNO is a carrier that uses another network to provide customers its service. US Cellular operates its own network, so no, it’s not an MVNO. That said, US Cellular has a relatively smaller network and uses partnerships with some of the big carriers to provide free roaming for its customers. In many cases, US Cellular will still get service outside of its network, though you might not get full data support while roaming.